North of Auckland: 5 days road trip

Cape Reinga lighthouse

Posted on 03/11/2016 by Crystal

New Zealand, aka Easy on the Eyes, is the most naturally pretty county I’ve ever had the pleasure of laying my feet down in. It is the country of long, green pastures and a place seemingly PERFECT for road trips. For me it was time to check out where the roads north of Auckland would take me.

Oh by the way, while road tripping in your campervan around New Zealand be sure to take advantage of the awesome “freedom camping” they have here. Freedom camping is designated campsites that are either completely free or really cheap for overnight stays around NZ. What better way could there possibly be to check out this beautiful country?

North of Auckland road trip: Cape Reinga (2 days)

Cape Reinga is generally accepted as the Northern most tip of NZ (it’s not, but the actual tip is inaccessible to people due to it being a sanctuary). Reinga is beautiful but very windy. Upon the tip you’ll find the lighthouse and a lot of traditional Māori stories written on plaques along the pathways. One story is that the two seas (The Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean) crashing together symbolise male and female creation of life, and another being that a tree with roots leading down to the water is a place where spirits go to descend to the underworld.

One story is that the two seas (The Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean) crashing together symbolise male and female creation of life, and another being that a tree with roots leading down to the water is a place where spirits go to descend to the underworld.

Things to do in Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga north of Auckland road trip

Must see north of Auckland: Cape Reinga

Don’t be put off by the distance – there are a LOT of cool things to do in the Cape. Here’s a short list of the BEST things to do;

  1. Visit Cape Reinga Lighthouse. This is the northernmost tip where you can see the two seas together and read about the Māori folklore
  2. Go sand duning at Giant Te Paki sand dunes. Bring a body board or cardboard, or just run down them at high-speed!
  3. Check out the secluded beach and horses at Spirits Bay. Beautiful campsite here as well
  4. Drive along Ninety Mile beach, but only if you have a 4WD! Otherwise, you can just park and go check it out

Where to stay in Cape Reinga

Spirits Bay campsite is the best place to stay around here. It is just gorgeous. Pretty secluded down a dirt road but when you get there it’s totally worth it! The beach is long and empty; there are horses that munch on the grass on the hill next to you and the water is vivid green. There are pit toilets and running water at the campground. Cost is $6 per night in an honesty box.

For the same price, just around the corner from Spirits Bay, you’ll find Tapotopotu campsite that is just as beautiful, but a little bit further from the beach.

Paihia & Bay of Islands (2-3 days)

This quaint seaside town is chock-full of things to do nearby and staying a few days here is easy peasy. Nestled a couple of hours above Auckland it’s an easy and beautiful drive, with plenty of places to camp.

Things to do in Paihia

You may not find the time to do EVERYTHING on offer here are a few awesome ones;

  1. Kayak around the bay and into the mangroves to a waterfall. You can even kayak under the waterfall if you’re keen to get wet!
  2. Do the Dolphin and Discovery Cruise. The types of cruises are seasonal, but you’ll see cool sights and dolphins on most of them. If you’re lucky and the weather/seas are right, you can even swim with the dolphins!
  3. Visit Rainbow Falls and take a stroll around the walking tracks. You might even see a kiwi if you're lucky! You can also scale the boulders and head behind the waterfall if you’ve got the balls!
  4. Drive over to Waipoua Forest to see the thousand-year-old Kauri trees. Although quite touristy, it's well worth the visit to see a tree that’s lived for 3,000 years!
Bay of Islands on north of Auckland road trip

Paihia, Dolphin Cruise and Rainbow Falls

Where to stay in Paihia

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many cheap/free campsites in Paihia town. A lovely ground called Bay of Islands Holiday Apartments is the cheapest you’ll find close to the town.

But, if you head towards Waipoua forest, Trounsen Kauri Park Campground comes highly recommended. For $6 per night you sleep in the forest, can use a communal kitchen, have a warm shower, and there’s a kiwi night walk from the grounds that is just real cool.

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This road trip north of Auckland was done by Crystal from Castaway With Crystal in a Spaceships Beta 2S campervan. On her travel blog you can read more about her adventures in New Zealand or check out her road trip from Auckland to Coromandel and the Waikato region.